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  • Mom we Love: Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck

    The benefits of a healthy lifestyle go beyond looking great, as Chef Barni discovers.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
  • Barni Alejandro-RennebeckBecoming a mom was never in the plans of Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck, vice president for product development of The Sexy Chef -- so when she became pregnant just one month after her wedding to Italian-German husband Bernd, she was surprised.

    “When my husband and I first met, we both didn’t want kids. Ours was a whirlwind romance and we got engaged only six months after we started dating. Somewhere along the way, though, I changed my mind -- exactly one month before the wedding. He was surprised, but I guess, when you find the right person… [you also want what will make her happy]. And it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”

    The news was met with much joy also because, at 36 years old, Barni didn’t think that pregnancy would happen so quickly. “All my friends were getting IVF because they were having difficulty getting pregnant, so I thought I was going to be like them. I didn’t realize how fertile I was! I put 2 and 2 together and realized that it may be because I’m not like most women [in the sense that] I eat healthy. For the longest time, I’ve really stopped having preservatives in my food, I was doing a lot of cleanses also (she did a cycle of JuJu cleanse), not to mention that I was on my ideal weight at the time. All those factors – your age, your weight, your lifestyle – contribute to a healthy pregnancy.”

    Barni tells us that she whasn’t always been a health buff; in fact, “I used to be 20 pounds overweight, and very sickly, that Rachel nicknamed me “sick woman”. I was eating a lot of processed food, everything came from a can.” Seeking the help of a doctor from the United States, she learned that her condition was due to poor eating habits. “Rachel bought me a cookbook and urged me to cook meals from fresh ingredients, and that’s when we realized that I had the knack for cooking," Barni says, referring to sister, singer Rachel Alejandro. "The Sexy Chef actually started with, first, cookbooks; then, small cooking classes; then I went to school at ISCAHM (International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management).”

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    However, as any pregnant woman will tell you, your hormones go crazy when you’re pregnant and cause you to have food cravings. Barni was no different. “My diet changed when I was pregnant. I couldn’t eat the food that I used to like! I never liked beef, but during that time I was eating steak – a lot! I kinda freaked out because I was thinking, I’m gonna get fat. I even went through stages of craving for ensaymada, cupcakes, yogurt. Thankfully, my metabolism was fast because I was exercising and doing pre-natal yoga, so I didn’t gain a lot of weight.”

    Barni Alejandro-RennebeckAt 7 months, Barni was diagnosed with a weak cervix. She recalls, “I was hospitalized because I was already 2 centimeters dilated! I was on bedrest for 5 to 6 weeks after that. That was really tough, since I was used to being active.”

    Thankfully, Barni’s pregnancy went well. On December 21, 2012, she gave birth to adorable daughter Aryana Rennebeck, or Arya, whom she fondly refers to as her “one-hit wonder.”

    Owing primarily to her healthy lifestyle, Barni shares that just as pregnancy came easy, it didn’t take long for her to recuperate, either. “I was on my feet two days after giving birth by Caesarean section. I was even able to attend the company Christmas party on the 24th!”


    On breastfeeding
    “I thought I’d be raring to go back to my usual grind a month after I give birth, but now, I’m really enjoying the bonding breastfeeding brings. I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which discusses all the health benefits. I’m aiming to breastfeed Arya for at least 6 months. Right now, I’m really building a stash.”

    Barni is such a staunch advocate of breastfeeding that when her first pedia suggested she supplement her breastmilk with formula, she says it didn’t feel right. “My first pedia told me I wasn’t making enough milk and was quick to push formula. I have nothing against formula, but I did want to enjoy the bonding you experience while breastfeeding. So I looked for another doctor.”

    She also stresses the importance of having a network of mommies you trust to help you out. When she was struggling to produce milk, she said she turned to her cousin and friends. “My cousin encouraged me and said, just keep pumping, keep trying, feed her every two hours, so you can produce more milk, because it’s a supply-and-demand thing.”



    Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck

    Rachel and Barni Alejandro with mom Myra Demauro. Photo courtesy of The Sexy Chef

    One other benefit of breastfeeding, Barni shares, is that she lost 20 pounds in just one month just from breastfeeding and following The Sexy Chef’s diet programs. “We have a program called Body After Baby, originally based from the book by American author Jackie Keller, which, coupled with breastfeeding, really worked for me. We’re thinking of revamping it now to take into consideration the available ingredients locally, like malunggay.”

    The Sexy Chef’s Body After Baby program offers tasty selections in its menu. Barni says, “You don’t need to worry about the taste, because what we offer is basically the food you have everyday at home, but fortified with nutrients and cooked in a healthier way. It’s flavorful so you’re not going to miss the taste of junk food, if you’re used to it. Plus, we offer international dishes so our customers are always excited about what their meal is going to be every single day.”

    Barni is excited for the time when Arya starts eating solid food, because “I’ve already researched and thought of recipes for her. My husband and I have come up with an idea for a future project, where we could sell organic baby food to moms like me who want to start their kids with healthy food from day 1.”

    If you’re a mom who’s bent on changing your diet, but are finding it difficult to stick to it especially when eating out, here are Chef Barni’s 5 tips:

    1.    Stick to baked or grilled food - nothing fried.
    2.    Order soup beforehand because it fills you up. Chances are, you won’t overeat or order dessert anymore.
    3.    Don’t skip meals.
    4.    Don’t starve yourself because that’s when you binge out.
    5.    If you must order dessert, order one to be shared by the group.



    Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck

    Because of her own pregnancy journey, Barni is all the more convinced that being fit has contributed to her fertility. “We have clients who come to us trying to be pregnant, like our cousin Michelle. She and her husband have been trying for a baby for a year and a half when she came to us. We put her on the Pounds Away program, which is a calorie-controlled diet, and she lost weight – about 9 pounds after two weeks. I don’t know if it was just coincidence, but after that she got pregnant. Maybe it’s because she got healthier, and her body became more prepared to conceive.”

    Asked about her decision to have a baby, Barni says “Before my wedding, a friend of mine told me that if I ever have any doubts about not having a baby, I should just go for it, or else I might regret it. I am so glad I changed my mind.”


    To find out more about the Body After Baby and Pounds Away program of The Sexy Chef, visit thesexychef.ph or visit their Facebook page. Read more about Chef Barni in the April 10th anniversary issue of Smart Parenting magazine.

    Barni shares her recipe for yummy Cookies and Cream Cheesecake without the guilt! See below:

    The Sexy Chef's Cookies and Cream Cheesecake
    (Makes 1 3x3” mini cake)
    1/2 cup ground Murray Sugarfree Sandwich Cookies Chocolate/Oreo cookies
    2 tbsp lite butter
    2 cups lowfat/lite cream cheese
    2 eggs
    2 tbsp maltitol syrup
    ½ cup isomalt F
    2 tbsp cornstarch
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tbsp ground Murray Sugarfree Sandwich Cookies Chocolate/Oreo Cookies

    1. Heat oven to 350°F.
    2. Mix 1/2 cup crushed cookies with butter; press onto bottom and sides of the two 3x3” springform pans.
    3. Beat cream cheese, maltitol and isomalt in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add vanilla; mix well. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Stir in chopped cookies. Pour into crust.
    4. Bake 55 min. to 1 hour or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing.
    5. Refrigerate 4 hours.


    Photos by Vincent Coscoluella

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